Service to the State

Brig. Gen. Azzam Al-Rawahneh runs the Royal Jordanian National Defense College with experience gained as head of military intelligence


Born into a household filled with love of soldiering and patriotic sacrifice, Brig. Gen. Azzam Irshed Al-Rawahneh’s military personality was inherited from his father, a Soldier who died fighting to defend the sovereignty of his homeland. Brig. Gen. Al-Rawahneh, commander of the Royal Jordanian National Defense College in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, received his early education in schools affiliated with military culture, where students receive an education in the noble and patriotic principles of the Armed Forces. With his great knowledge of history, politics and literature, he is a distinguished presence at official and social events and adds a special flavor to any gathering in which he takes part.

He has occupied several sensitive positions in the Jordan Armed Forces, through which he gained considerable experience and transferred these successes to later posts. Al-Rawahneh considers this one of the keys to the success of his military career. 

“I have been very fortunate to have served in multiple positions to keep pace with military qualifications from an operational, tactical and strategic perspective. At the same time, I have obtained academic qualifications by studying and participating in a large number of workshops, seminars and conferences at the global and regional levels. I was keen to transfer my field and academic experience managing daily operations. The art of leadership is applying successful experiences to improve capabilities,”  he said.

He enrolled at the Royal Jordanian National Defense College, where his leadership skills were shaped by the parameters of Jordanian society and the culture of the Jordan Armed Forces. After graduation, he never ceased acquiring knowledge of military science: He holds a master’s degree in strategic defense studies from Malaysia, in addition to advanced studies at the U.S. Army Staff College, and encourages leaders never to stop learning.   

“A leader must pursue military culture and science by reading specialized literature and attending military and security conferences and seminars,” Al-Rawahneh said. “The exchange of experiences and successes in these forums is beneficial to all participants. Studying military science at various academies and universities also causes a leader to think multidimensionally. A leader must study the defense strategies of friendly and unfriendly nations.”   

He spent most of his career at the Directorate of Military Intelligence, where he worked after graduating as a second lieutenant in 1989. He rose to become the director of Military Intelligence where, with a high degree of professionalism, he achieved great success during a difficult period — an indication of his acumen for leadership and crisis management. 

“I assumed management of the Intelligence Directorate at a very sensitive and decisive time full of internal and external tensions, challenges, and threats, in addition to the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, in which the Jordan Armed Forces bore a great responsibility. Terrorist organizations were moving along the kingdom’s northern and eastern borders, which makes the role of intelligence in dismantling and destroying these groups before they infiltrate the country’s borders an important matter.”

“We were successful in staving off the threat of terrorist gangs sneaking across our borders through diligent intelligence work and the sharing of intelligence information with other state institutions and friendly nations. We have also been keen to develop our capabilities and employ modern technologies in border control and the monitoring of terrorist activities, whether on social media pages or via lines of transport.” 

Al-Rawahneh has drawn his command reasoning from the leadership philosophy of the Hashemites, which mixes firmness and decisiveness with mercy by dealing with issues humanely and in a way that does not violate military values.

“A leader must be close to his Soldiers and listen to them. Before directing punishment toward those who fall short, a leader must understand the reasons that prompted the shortcoming,” he said. “Some simple mistakes can be addressed via correction and by accepting a Soldier’s promise that it will not be repeated. Amnesty strengthens the respect and loyalty of the Soldier toward his commander, but at the same time there must be zero tolerance in matters that contradict national and military regulations.” 

The brigadier general believes that a leader exists to serve his country, his commanding officers, and his Army. This is the maxim of the Jordan Armed Forces on which he was raised, and the example followed by all the leaders of the Arab Army throughout history.

“The Army’s confidence in the abilities of its commander qualifies him for the position he occupies and is tantamount to commissioning him to serve the homeland from his position. That is, the position is a temporary station for a commander who must leave behind a positive impression. It is a trust granted by the state to the commander, and he must maintain this trust and serve his country to the best of his abilities, shaped by his field and academic experiences.”     

Al-Rawahneh professes the importance of maintaining alliances to counter terrorist threats. Modern asymmetric warfare requires international and regional alliances and intelligence sharing at all levels. The three-front concept of conventional warfare is obsolete. New fronts have emerged in cyberspace, outer space and from drones.

“Our experience as Jordan Armed Forces in the war on terror is an important one that many countries have benefited from. Similarly, our participation in Afghanistan was enriching and important, contributing to enhanced stability there,” he said.

“Our philosophy is based on the idea that we are part of the world and have a significant role in promoting stability, whether regional or international. That’s especially true as terrorist gangs use low-cost drones to hit vital targets. The cyber threat no longer disrupts only communication networks, but may cause human catastrophes if attackers can open dam gates or change formulas at oil refineries or petrochemical installations. We must, therefore, be prepared to combat these changes.”

Al-Rawahneh believes that each military commander develops his leadership philosophy based on foundations and values taken from the history and culture of the institution in which he works, while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to developments and changes in the world. He applied that very philosophy when he transitioned to be commander of the Royal Jordanian National Defense College.

“The field of intelligence greatly benefits the academic side of the National Defense College through the experience that I have developed on the intelligence side as it serves the concept of defense. The intelligence and academic side of this college can be aligned. We as military personnel are trained to adapt to any location in which we work,” he said.

 “In the end, the military establishment remains the institution most prominent in its ability to produce leaders who have the experience and courage to make decisions and support the efforts of the state in moving toward the growth in which we absolutely believe, by reducing the impact on our country of regional conflicts and crises.”

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